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Budget pruning may cut close to home

Property owners may bear the brunt of cutbacks

A proposed ordinance being considered by Jefferson City officials would place responsibility for streetside tree maintenance in most of the city onto the property owners.

At the Public Works and Planning Committee meeting Wednesday, a proposed ordinance was discussed that would change the responsibility of streetside tree maintenance for areas outside of the Downtown Beautification District, which is defined as being bounded by the Missouri River on the north, U.S. 54/63 on the west, Dunklin Street on the south and Lafayette Street on the east. The area includes both sides of Dunklin and Lafayette streets.

The change is a direct result of budget cuts approved by the City Council in March to help cover a $1.68 million shortfall in this fiscal year. Because the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has its own dedicated sales tax to fund its operations, the only cut the department received was a $20,000 cut to streetside tree maintenance, which left $25,000 in that line item.

Department director Bill Lockwood said the amount that remained after the cut has already been spent and the department already was struggling to keep up with tree maintenance before the cut.

“We have a perpetual backlog of street tree work,” he said.

When asked how much would be needed to properly fund the tree maintenance work without putting responsibility on the property owners, Lockwood said $90,000 to $100,000 would put the department in much better shape.

The committee opted to table the issue to give City Council members an opportunity to discuss it further before taking any action.

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